By: Caitlyn Freeman, Assistant Editor and Anna Hovet, Staff Writer
As the legal battle over the Maryland Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDCO) refusal to nullify fall 2020 on-campus housing licenses continues, MEDCO officials announce possible resolutions during an Oct. 21 meeting of the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW)
During the meeting, MEDCO’s Executive Director, Robert Brennan, was questioned by state Comptroller Peter Franchot about the corporation’s decision. Franchot explained that he’s been contacted by several parents and students from Towson University and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMDCP) who are seeking relief from MEDCO. When Franchot asked Brennan about these claims, Brennan cited the organization’s debts to bond holders as their reasoning.
“We are, quite frankly, between a rock and a hard place,” Brennan said. “I have a legal obligation to the bond investors who lent the money on these projects to operate these facilities in accordance with the budgets that were approved by the universities, MEDCO and the operators.”
He went on to explain that MEDCO and TU have been in conversation to figure out how to relieve students of their leases.
“I will tell you, we’ve been talking to Towson,” Brennan said. “They’ve probably been providing more noise about the issue. I believe we have a solution.”
While no solution to relieve students has been finalized by the time of publication, Brennan remains hopeful.
“I think we’re going to come up with a solution where Towson will solve the problem,” said Brennan.
He also stated that while MEDCO has directed the facilities to collect the payments from tenants as normal, they are not pursuing legal actions against missed payments.
“We are working with the managers,” Brennan said. “I’ve told them ‘go about your normal collections, but we are not going to take any aggressive collections.’”
Leonard Lucchi, an Esquire for O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore, P.A. who is representing TU and UMDCP families against MEDCO, says the news of conversations between Towson and MEDCO is relieving, especially since the organization has no intention to take legal action.
“It’s reassuring to know [MEDCO] doesn’t have present intentions to sue these students and their families, but it still causes a lot of stress to the students and their families, in addition to the regular stress of remote learning, that they may have to defend themselves in court for something that was completely out of their control,” Lucchi said
Scott Depuy, a parent of a Paca House resident who is represented by Lucchi, has been trying to put all the pieces together since the news broke in August that TU would be partially online for the fall semester, going completely remote after Thanksgiving.
Upon hearing that the situation between MEDCO and TU students had gained the attention of the Governor’s office, Depuy said he thought Franchot took Brennan by surprise when he brought it up.
“These are powerful people in the state government,” Depuy said. “They don’t always respond to our emails, our tweets. I didn’t really know whether anybody was hearing any of the stuff we were saying or not. But that was confirmation that comptroller Franchot had definitely heard what we talked about.”
According to Depuy, he has spoken or attempted to speak with several members of the TU administration and the MD legislator including Franchot and officials within the legislature.
During the meeting of the Board of Public Works, Governor Larry Hogan expressed empathy for both sides of the aisle.
“We’ve been trying to work on this for a couple of months, and we’ve been in discussions with not only MEDCO, but with the Chancellor’s office and with our budget secretary,” Hogan said. “Secretary Brinkly and I agree, we really shouldn’t be taking action against [the students], but I understand that the bond council, that the bond holders need to get paid and need to have that cash flow.”
Depuy said he has strong reason to believe that the General Assembly is having some discussions and that this will ultimately fall in their lap. However, he does hope a solution is achieved through TU and MEDCO.
“There will be no louder voice than mine in support of TU if they get this resolved in a sane way,” Depuy said. “Grit and hard work in combination with academics are what get it done in this world. I think TU has a better posture.”
– The Towerlight contacted Brennan for comment, but he denied the request.
– The Towerlight contacted Towson University for comment, but they denied the request.